TAMPA — King pitcher Devin Smith had a stressful start and ending to the Lions region quarterfinal game against Manatee on Tuesday.
But the junior right-hander had nothing closely resembling that in the middle innings as King held on to win 3-2. The Lions (17-11) host Venice in Friday's region semifinal.
"He did a heck of a job," longtime King coach Jim Macaluso said of Smith. "He threw really well once he calmed down."
Smith gave up two of the three hits he allowed in the opening inning as two of the first three batters tagged him for long singles. And when Manatee pitcher Josh Clemen hit a deep sacrifice fly to leftfield, the Hurricanes led 1-0.
But the Lions took the lead in the bottom of the first when shortstop Josciel Veras blasted a two-run home run to left. King added to its lead in the third when Brett Morales beat the throw on an infield hit to send Keon Barnum home.
That run was crucial as Clemen hit a solo homer to right in the seventh inning to narrow the margin to a run.
But Smith, who retired Manatee in order in the second through fifth innings, came up big again, striking out the game's last two batters.